Onedotzero’s regular offering of Japanese audio-visual shorts and music videos, J-Star, was back with a bang this year. A staple part of the onedotzero AV festival, J-Star serves as a showcase for Japanese animators, Graphic artists and Moving-image makers, allowing them to reach an audience who may never have been able to experience their work.
Introduced by onedotzero curator Shane Walter and Takafuni Tsuchiya Aka Takcom. Shane started the J-Star project as he and the onedotzero crew are influenced by Japanese pop-culture, Manga and animation. J-star has always been a popular part of any onedotzero event. This year playing host to some new contributors and also some returning talent from Japan’s vibrant A/V scene, and as always J-Star did not disappoint.
Takafuni spoke briefly about his contribution to this years festival, an adventure into sound visualisation, working with experimental Jazz group SJQ. His work reflects the ‘question answer’ style of improvised jazz, with each instrument reflected in a sound reactive element of the animation.
The screenings began with:
Fantasista Utamaro + Shane Lester: Hanabeam (music by Hifana)
With an energetic soundtrack of broken beats complemented with vibrant animation and stylised characters, Breakbeat duo Hifana’s latest promo video is grabs your attention instantly with its hectic but amusing style. A fireworks competition which takes place in a desolate city. High in the sky, giant Japanese fireworks explode, revitalising the city with positive breakbeat energy.
Takuya Hosogane: Vanishing Point
An abstract music promo which explores the concept of the vanishing point in animation as an ever-changing sphere, alternating from minimalistic graphics to shiny 3D. “Vanishing Point” is an exuberantly creative motion graphics video. Hip electronic beats pulse through the 3D shapes as we watch various geometries form and dissolve. According to the artist, the video was not made in real time, but instead with thousands of key frames.
YKBX: Amazarashi’s: Natsu Wo Matteimashita
Mixing Traditional elements of Japanese culture with a futuristic visions of an animated Tokyo, Natsu Wo Matteimashita Is an alternative music video where a strange squid-like creature travels through Tokyo, accompanied by Japanese calligraphy painted across the sky. The detailed and refined drawing style, the changing landscapes, dynamic movements and ever-changing and mysterious creature make this piece beautiful and entrancing to view.
Takafuni Tsuchiya [Takcom]: Pico (music by SJQ)
The video which was introduced by it’s creator, Takafuni Tsuchiya’s collaboration with abstract jazz quintet SJQ, was an adventure into sound visualisation, which captures the unique and slightly disturbing musical composition by using geometric shapes and lines, minimal in style but visually engaging with it’s neon colours and black and white patterns all reacting to the beat.
Tanabe Hidenobu: Joy Joy Experience (music by Monobright)
Tanabe Hidenobu’s Joy Joy experience instantly made the audience laugh out loud, with it’s phallic magic mushrooms, big floating lips and bright flashing text. This music video for Japanese band Monobright appeared to be influenced by the psychedelic animation style of the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’. Difficult to take it all in on first viewing, this video is a must see.
Hori Yasushi: Searching for the
Hori Yasushi’s offering ‘Searching for the’ was created in a beautifully simple, line drawn style. It began in a children’s playground, with babies speaking in a strange language playing in a sand-pit. They develop the ability to float off into the sky, playing amongst the clouds and talking to a bizarre cat-like sun. The animation style was in itself almost childlike, which suited the subject matter well.
Fantasista Utamaro: Mogu Mogu (music by Chinza Dopeness)
Another Shane Lester piece, ‘Mogu Mogu’ was a brightly coloured animation following Chinza Dopeness’, a green cucumber-like creature, as he plays the role of’ ‘Kappa’ a character from Japanese folklore who is down on his luck so he embarks on a journey to cheer himself up by eating. This was a clear hit with the audience, making them laugh along with our ‘hero’ as he ate and ate. The backing track, from Chinza Dopeness’ first album was inspired by Japanese children’s cartoons, with it’s high energy and catchy chorus of ‘Mogu, Mogu, Good time, Good time’.
Kazuya Sasahara: Cat Shit One
CAT SHIT ONE or Apocalypse Meow as it’s known in America was a pretty surreal concept, an ultra realistic CGI interpretation of a Middle Eastern war-zone, reminiscent of the cut scenes from a high end video game such as Call Of Duty or Metal Gear solid. The only difference being that it’s stars are fluffy cute bunny rabbits, fighting against camels. We were only shown the trailer for this cartoon which is based on a popular manga animation by Motofumi Kobayashi, but it was enough to make you want to watch the whole feature.
Junji Kojima: TVG Moving
Next up, with a rather confusing simultaneous Japanese and English audio track, was a video made by animation company Teevee Graphics. The purpose of the video was to inform clients that they were moving offices. Their efforts to escape from Tokyo are shown in a quirky CG style, which helped to clear up what was actually going on. The clashing narration in two languages was a bit hard to follow but the action on screen spoke for itself.
Easeback + Teppei Maki: Shuriken Cut (music by DJ Kentaro)
Rather appropriately the following video was from Ninja Tune artist DJ Kentaro. Tonight’s onedotzero was also playing host to a Ninja Tune XX screening of some of their best music videos, in the next door cinema. Kentaro is shown scratching along to one of his inimitable tracks, massive drums overlayed with traditional Japanese instruments. As the scratching gets more and more technical, the lines between animation and real footage begin to blur. Ninja images and live footage blend together, with Kentaro becoming animated himself. Done in black and white and taking influences from 70’s animes, Teppei Maki has captured the mood of the track and Kentaro’s skilled scratching perfectly.
QNQ/AUJIK: The Ishiyama Excursion
The Ishiyama Excursion, from new age group AUJIK, played with the contrasting elements of science and nature, mixing a walk through an enchanting and serene forest with mechanical creatures and plants. Not always instantly recognizable, the robotic elements appear to be based on and inspired by insects and animals. Although they are very different, there is a strange harmony between all the pieces of this animation.
Tomoya Kimpara: Suiren
Another video that blended nature with technology was Tomoya Kimpara’s Suiren. Mechanical seeds floated effortlessly in an underwater environment. Milky fluid moving and flowing in contrast to the mechanical movement of the seeds. Like a close up view of some sort of cybernetic germination, the seeds move around in groups or alone, forming shapes then bursting into flower in unison.
Kouki Tange: Ichigo (music by Yuzu)
Ichigo means Strawberry in Japanese, and this music video was certainly bursting with them. J-Pop band Yuzu are depicted in this promo as ants climbing all over cakes while leotard clad girls with Strawberry hats dance around them. The low tech nature of the video was all part of it’s charm. Like a drug induced interpretation of kids show ‘Big Cook Little Cook’, basic techniques, bright sets and crazy costumes are used to the great effect.
Daihei Shibata: The Light Of Life (music by Claude Debussy)
Finishing off this years J-Star event was the breathtaking ‘The Light Of Life’. Set to Debussy’s Clair de Lune, light and life are interpreted as a reflection of the human life-cycle. Daihei Shibata the piece’s creator has put the piece into his own words saying.
“Life is transparent, warm and swirls randomly like a soft light. And it constantly changes… Life illuminates itself and then it begins to illuminates a new life. A sprouted mass of innumerable lights become a flow before long, and then become the part of the life-throb of ages. That ties life, this moment now”